AUF WIEDERSEHEN ... Although his parents are members of the Lions Club, Philipp De Fries managed to snag a Rotary scholarship to study in Palo Alto this past year. The 16-year-old hails from the cutlery city of Solingen, Germany. On the eve of his departure for home after attending Palo Alto High School, De Fries mused on the year. Students here work harder and party less than their counterparts in Germany, he said. And Palo Alto is far more diverse than Solingen, where only about 3 percent of the students are from different cultures. De Fries wore a vest, issued by Rotary on his arrival here, on which he collected 60 or 70 pins from various Rotary clubs. On it he had added a few other mementos from his American tour: a pin from the Hard Rock Cafe, and his Paly varsity tennis letter.
GREEN LANES ... Palo Alto officials shook up the Chinese Zodiac this year when they declared 2011 the "Year of the Bike." This week, they showed they mean business. The city's planning staff held two public meetings to discuss projects that officials hope will make life easier for bicyclists and pedestrians (the verdict on drivers isn't out yet). The more significant of the two was the Arastradero Road re-striping project (see story on page 5). On Tuesday night, transportation officials hosted a smaller, more low-key meeting on proposed changes to Channing Avenue, between Newell Road and Lincoln Avenue. The goal, according to Chief Transportation Official Jaime Rodriguez, is to create an "enhanced bicycle way" on Channing Avenue with green bike lanes, speed tables and road markings to encourage cars to slow down. Other local neighborhoods will probably see similar changes in the coming months and years. The city plans to release on July 25 a draft of its new Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan — an ambitious document that will propose a long list of road modifications aimed at making Palo Alto a top-tier city for bicyclists.
BITS OF TRASH ... Palo Alto officials have grand plans for reforming the city's troubled garbage operation. In the next year, city officials will consider whether to close the Recycling Center at Byxbee Park; whether the city should start charging customers for recycling; and whether a local composting facility is worth pursuing. The first change customers will likely notice is a bump in their trash bills this fall. Under a new proposal from the Public Works Department, all customers will see a new $4.62 fee added to their trash bills starting Oct. 1. The City Council's Finance Committee will weigh the proposal Tuesday night. The goal of the new fee is to close the $3.7 million hole in the Refuse Fund, which has been bleeding cash as customers went "green" and switched to smaller trash cans, thereby slashing their bills and creating a revenue crisis in the Refuse Fund.